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Candidate Sourcing in a Pandemic. It's not as easy as you might think.

It’s easy to think that the thousands of people who have lost their jobs because of COVID must make candidate sourcing for hiring managers easier – after all, more candidates must mean easier recruitment, right? Not so! This week’s blog explores why candidate sourcing is actually more difficult in an economic crisis like this one.

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner
Candidate sourcing with a magnifying glass

You might think that candidate sourcing in a pandemic is pretty straight forward. After all, the decimation of the economy and the resultant job losses mean there are candidates everywhere, right? But strangely, this increase in candidate numbers doesn’t necessarily mean that recruiters have the candidates they need lining up for a new gig. Why not, I hear you ask?

While there are concerted efforts to upskill and assist those who have found themselves unemployed – for example, airline staff have been offered retraining and jobs with companies like Woolworths, Telstra and Rio Tinto, these are nearly all short-term casual roles and not a long term solution. Nor does it magically provide them with the skills and experience that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for in other industries.

The main reasons why candidate sourcing has become trickier, even though there are thousands of more people available are twofold – candidates out of work are too often skilled in the industries that aren’t hiring, and those in the industries that are hiring are loathe to risk the job they have by making a change.

It certainly isn’t a case of not having enough candidates interested in a role – most recruiters are reporting hundreds of applications for most of the roles they are recruiting at the moment. But having enough “right” candidates is still proving a challenge.


The job losses are industry-specific and so are the candidates

The COVID pandemic has been cruellest to industries that are customer-facing, most notably travel and tourism, airlines, hospitality, retail, the arts and recreation. The job losses and stand-downs in these sectors have been unprecedented. But while there are thousands of people in the job market, their skill sets are best suited to the industry that doesn’t need them at the moment.

For recruiters in these industries, there are limited jobs available to fill and for recruiters specialising in other industries, these candidates sadly don’t have the job skills and experience required to meet the needs of their clients.

People are less open to moving jobs in the middle of a crisis

An economic crisis always spooks job candidates. And this one is not like any ordinary downturn. COVID has a life of its own, creating levels of uncertainty that change behaviour. Uncertainty leads to fear, and fear reduces appetite for risk – house prices fall, any disposable income goes into savings not spending and people tend to stay in their jobs rather than risk moving to a company or industry that may be impacted at any time.

Because of this, recruiters are finding it more difficult to attract the skilled and experienced candidates they need through the normal process of advertising on job boards such as Seek and Indeed. While we receive hundreds of applications for every job advertised, the number of applicants who meet the selection criteria is low.

And search activity, where we actively target and approach specific candidates, has been impacted for the same reasons – we need to use our persuasion skills much more carefully to incite people to even think about a change.

Hundreds of unsuitable candidates create other challenges for hiring managers and recruiters

When they are candidate sourcing, an effective recruiter/hiring manager will review every application that comes in. After all, how do you know you have shortlisted the most suitable candidates if you haven’t looked at them all? But when you have hundreds of applications, the time it takes to find the right person you need can create frustrations. This is where a professional recruiter can be GOLD! Being able to quickly apply selection criteria simultaneously to hundreds of applications can speed the process up significantly.

Then there’s the challenge of handling the unsuitable applications – professionals will make sure they communicate with every applicant. After all, when things come good and compromised industries start hiring again, we want to have access to a range of candidates to help them ramp up quickly to pre-COVID levels.

The solution is to stay the course!

While this pandemic has thrown up all sorts of never-before-seen professional and personal challenges for us all, the solution is to stay calm, focussed and on track. Efficient processes, applying intelligent thought and maintaining kindness in all our candidate sourcing activities will win in both the short and long term as we work to rebuild our economy and communities.

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner

Bernadette Eichner, Cofounder and CEO of Just Right People, is a recruitment industry entrepreneur and thought leader in Australia, totally committed to improving the recruiter experience for clients and candidates alike. Her secret to life is to “just do the next thing that needs to be done”.

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